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Entrepreneur Elon Musk is apparently unconcerned that Apple could become a potential rival in the electric car space, saying the Cupertino, Calif., tech giant is where former employees go if they "don't make it" at Tesla.
Tesla's founder told German publication Handelsblatt that engineers poached away by Apple to work on its own electric car program codenamed "Project Titan" were not important to his company.
"Important engineers? They have hired people we've fired," Musk said. "We always jokingly call Apple the 'Tesla Graveyard.' If you don't make it at Tesla, you go work at Apple. I'm not kidding."
When asked if he takes Apple's automotive ambitions seriously, Musk quipped, "Did you ever take a look at the Apple Watch?" The Tesla chief noted the distinction between producing consumer electronics and an automobile, but failed to explain how one of the world's largest companies would be unable reproduce or surpass his own success ("success" being a relative term considering Tesla is not expected to turn a profit until 2020).
"It's good that Apple is moving and investing in this direction. But cars are very complex compared to phones or smartwatches. You can't just go to a supplier like Foxconn and say: Build me a car," he said. "But for Apple, the car is the next logical thing to finally offer a significant innovation. A new pencil or a bigger iPad alone were not relevant enough."
Musk's sentiments are shared by others in the auto industry, including Bob Lutz, who warned that an Apple foray into cars would be a "giant money pit."
It's no secret that Apple and Tesla are vying for each other's engineers, and Musk himself said in May that attrition rates swing in Tesla's favor by a ratio of five to one. Given today's comments, it seems Tesla is getting the better deal since those on the way out are bad apples. At the time, Apple was reportedly offering some Tesla employees $250,000 signing bonuses and 60 percent raises to jump ship.
Apple is thought to be pushing aggressively forward on its car project, with reports earlier this year claiming hundreds of workers are assigned to the job. Despite its size, however, precious few details have leaked. AppleInsider earlier this year revealed Apple is conducting car operations out of a secretive facility in Sunnyvale, Calif., though that could change in the coming months. The company is thinking about building out a dedicated facility on a 43-acre plot of land it owns in San Jose, according to a source familiar with the matter.